Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lotus in the Mud: Lessons for Happiness in Social Media

Via Abraham Morales on Flickr

This was a pretty crazy week on Social Media with posts running the gamut from shocking and depressing to good-natured fun to "feel-good" and uplifting.  Just as I felt myself feeling dragged down by the online cruelty and hate I found some fun and beautiful posts that brought hope and happiness.

A lot has been written about the potential of social media for learning and education but the fear that one slip can become a huge career-changing faux pas puts many caveats on this potential.  The perceived anonymity, the endless seeking of superficial likes and retweets and viral nature of the medium, have contributed to the rise of a culture of mobs and bullying by hordes.

The week started with a post on NY Times about the YouTube video of two female sports journalists who fought back against their harassers. The only way to be able to watch even part of the video was by thinking about the courage of these two amazing people and ignoring the mindless, hateful comments.

And then the terrible story of a young man in a NFL draft (the lottery for a lucky few who survive the unpaid commercial exploitation that is NCAA football).  While I don't know anything about this particular person - his skills, his character, his background - the story was gut-wrenching.  Someone apparently got access to his Twitter account and posted a video of him smoking cannabis via a "Bong" device, which is something like a hookah.  This was done just before the draft and led to several teams skipping him and choosing someone else.  While there are many perspectives on this, the episode captures the hate, jealousy and power of the medium and the huge risks it brings.

But as the week went on, there was something better - this story via Buzzfeed.  An embarrassing photo of a firefighters rescuing a group of police officers stuck in an elevator.  Apparently 12 tactical team officers got on an elevator - they exceeded the weight limit- and the elevator got stuck.  The firefighters before they rescued them took a photo and there was some good-natured banter back and forth on Twitter.
Image via @Gregg Favre  
And this morning I woke up this post from the POTUS and FLOTUS helping Prince Harry increase awareness of the Invictus Games which uses the power of rehab sports to help injured servicemen/women in the road to recovery.

It was great to see these last two posts because in a big way they helped overcome the negative feelings generated by the first two.  The positive feeling helped restore faith that the medium can be used for good and fun.
While  we have read about studies regarding mood disorders and depression caused by Facebook it is good to think about the key factors in happiness:

  1. Good social relationships (belonging)
  2. Spending a part of your day doing things that you are good at and passionate about (mastery) and
  3. Having autonomy and freedom to make life decisions (autonomy)
 - and this excellent piece in The Atlantic shared by Eric Warm  on Twitter helped start off the weekend.  The article summarizes an interview with Raj Raghunathan the author of "If you are so smart why aren't you happy?"  He advocates for the Abundance-minded approach to life vs. the Scarcity-minded approach, 
"One extreme is a kind of scarcity-minded approach, that my win is going to come at somebody else's loss, which makes you engage in social comparisons. And the other view is what I would call a more abundance-oriented approach, that there's room for everybody to grow".

He then goes on to talk about the dispassionate pursuit of passion,
"...basically the concept boils down to not tethering your happiness to the achievement of outcomes"
"Ultimately, what we need in order to be happy is at some level pretty simple. It requires doing something that you find meaningful, that you can kind of get lost in on a daily basis". 
To cap it all was the terrific NPR story of students reporting on their teacher -  and the most important rule of her class - BE KIND!

Hope the Twitterverse is listening to her!